New Zealand is a stunning place to visit all year round, and there is no shortage of events and experiences that make the trip exciting whenever you decide to go.
The autumn season in New Zealand is particularly great to visit. Also known as the ‘shoulder season’, not only can you avoid the crowds, but you can marvel at the spectacular autumn colours and find your chill in New Zealand’s milder autumn weather.
It is the perfect time to slow down and savour the season’s milder temperatures and breathtaking scenery.
The start of autumn still offers warm days perfect for soaking up the sun, while cool evenings make for cosy nights. And as the season progresses, the countryside comes alive with stunning autumn colours that will take your breath away, along with bountiful seasonal produce that is sure to make your stomach happy.
Here is a list of why the shoulder season is one of the more underrated but must-visit times to visit New Zealand. From admiring the beautiful autumn foliage to sampling the most luscious food and escaping the crowds, autumn in New Zealand is unlike any other.
1. Marvel at a stunning display of autumn foliage at these must-visit destinations
Behold the exquisite beauty of the autumnal season as nature paints the landscape in a myriad of stunning hues. From the fiery oranges and deep reds of maple trees to the golden yellows of birch and poplar, the sight of autumn colours is truly a kaleidoscope of colours. In New Zealand, there are several places where you can witness the magic of the season.
Take a stroll by the shimmering waters of Lake Tekapo and immerse yourself in the golden hues of the surrounding foliage. Or, for a more refreshing experience, relax in the crisp breeze at Tekapo Springs and soak in the beauty of the season.
Arrowtown is the heart of autumn in New Zealand, with its vibrant foliage erupting into a spectacular display of oranges and yellows yearly. Don’t miss the Arrowtown Autumn Festival, a vibrant multi-day event filled with live music, food and wine, arts and comedy, and an enchanting parade through the town! It’s the perfect opportunity to revel in the bustling energy of the season.
This destination is another breathtaking destination for fall foliage, with rolling hills and vineyards showcasing the best of the season. Sip on some of the region’s famous wine offerings and witness the harvest season in full swing. The Tukituki Valley is a must-see highlight, boasting stunning vistas as you wind your way to Craggy Range for a glass of their renowned wine.
Finally, don’t forget to add Christchurch to your autumn itinerary! Glide along the Avon River as it shimmers under the warm hues of autumnal foliage, followed by a leisurely stroll through the pathways of Hagley Park. End your day at one of the bustling farmer’s markets, where you can savour the harvest season’s bounty.
2. Experience mild and cosy weather in the great outdoors.
Autumn in New Zealand is a magical time of the year when the temperatures start to cool down, and the stunning landscapes are painted in golden and orange hues. With mild temperatures and less rainfall, the season is perfect for experiencing great outdoor activities.
Experience New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks in a whole new light during the off-peak season! With perfect mild weather, these premier walking tracks boast stunning scenery and breathtaking views for everyone to enjoy. While popular walks like the Milford Track often book out quickly, autumn offers a chance to secure a spot and explore without the usual crowds. Plus, it’s the last chance to tackle these tracks before weather conditions make them inaccessible.
Cycling in Hawkes Bay
Not much of a walker? No problem! Feel the cool breeze of autumn by trying one of New Zealand’s 23 Great Rides, or take a leisurely wine tour by bike in Marlborough to marvel at some of the most stunning vineyard foliages of the season.
3. Sample some of the best produce on offer during the season
Experience the bounty of New Zealand’s changing seasons with the deliciously fresh produce available at restaurants. As the seasons shift, Aotearoa’s menus transform to showcase the best of local ingredients, making it the perfect time for foodies to explore.
Autumn is packed with a variety of in-season fruits like apples, pears, blackberries, feijoas, kiwi, persimmons, nashi and several more. Not only are these fruits delicious to eat but as they are in season they are a lot cheaper to buy at the local supermarkets or farmers markets.
Vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes, butternut squashes, brussel sprouts, courgettes and buttercups are just some of the vegetables that are delicious and readily available.
Several restaurants around New Zealand change their menu seasonally to adapt to the variety and availability of the seasonal produce making it more nutritious, delicious and cheaper to consume. Forest, a small vegetarian restaurant in Auckland, offers a weekly changing set menu based on seasonal produce and preservation, while St Georges Restaurant in Hawke’s Bay prioritises seasonality and sustainability, growing over 90% of their produce on-site. And don’t miss Bar Teresa in Hawkes Bay for delicious cocktails inspired by local and seasonal ingredients.
4. Get away from the crowds with a serene, tranquil stay
Autumn in New Zealand is the perfect time to plan your escape from the hustle and bustle of crowded tourist hotspots. These stays are some of the best accommodations to stay at during the season, away from the crowds and nestled in between the beautiful foliage.
Experience the best of Fiordland’s natural beauty in autumn when the waterfalls and scenery are at their peak with increased rainfall. For a serene and exclusive getaway, head to Fiordland Lodge in Te Anau, accommodating only 27 guests at a time, making it all the more exclusive.
Stay connected to nature while enjoying luxury accommodations just minutes away from Queenstown’s city centre at Azur Lodge. Admire the vibrant colours of the trees around Lake Wakatipu as they change for the season, and take quick trips to nearby towns of Arrowtown and Wanaka for more autumn foliage.
Fall in love with the Hawke’s Bay region during its harvest season, especially known for its wine. Book a stay at Breckenridge Lodge in Napier to enjoy the warm-toned vistas and indulge in gourmet food and wine offerings. Don’t miss the chance to explore their 35-year-old wine cellar featuring domestic and international wines.
The ‘shoulder season’ is the perfect time to reset and recharge, offering everyone those much-needed days to relax. Embrace the autumn calm and visit one of New Zealand’s top wellness retreats, such as the acclaimed Aro Ha, recognised by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the world’s best retreats.
Lake Hayes in autumn